Finger imaging given a thumbs down

New York was among the first states to require electronic fingerprinting of welfare recipients as a way to prevent fraud. But as Nina Bernstein of The New York Times reported recently, there is little solid evidence that finger imaging actually deters welfare fraud, particularly when stringent work rules, shortened eligibility times, and other antifraud measures are already pushing people off public assistance rolls at a brisk pace.

In fact, a study conducted for the state three years ago found that finger imaging made no difference in the approval or dropout rates of welfare recipients. Yet despite that finding, state officials are still pushing this strategy, and they are seeking approval for $9.9 million to extend a contract with a finger imaging company an additional year, to 2002, according to The Times.

"Finger imaging will merely intimidate some Medicaid applicants or cause them to stay away because of privacy concerns. . . . This is no time to erect a useless, expensive hurdle that may dissuade low-income people from getting the care they need," The Times stated.